Framed vs Frameless Cabinetry

Understanding the vocabulary of cabinetry construction is the first step toward making the process of selecting cabinetry less overwhelming.

Framed Cabinetry

Framed cabinetry is constructed with a frame attached to the front of the cabinet box (Figure 1). The frame is usually, 3/4″ solid hardwood with door hinges secured to it. Framed cabinetry offers less storage space and accessibility than frameless construction. This is especially noticeable in units housing drawers and roll-out shelves (Figure 2) because they must be narrow enough to clear the wide frame and hinges when pulled out.

Framed vs Frameless Cabinetry - Figure 1

A framed cabinet looks exquisite when designed with an “inset” where the door and drawer front sit entirely within the boundaries of the frame. This look is common to vintage furniture but can also lend a contemporary feel depending on other design elements. The doors on a framed box can also be designed as “full overlay”, meaning that the doors and drawer fronts cover the frame completely for a look that is the same as frameless cabinetry.

Frameless Cabinetry

Frameless cabinetry is often referred to as “full access” or “European Box”, where doors are hinged directly to the cabinet box. When opening the doors you will see the edge of the box instead of a frame (Figure 1). This construction style allows “full-access” to shelves because it doesn’t require “stiles” (center partitions) that hinder free movement of stored items. Storage space is maximized; since there is no frame to contend with, drawers and roll-out shelves can be wider than with framed cabinetry (Figure 2).

Framed vs Frameless Cabinetry - Figure 2

Your choice between framed and frameless cabinetry construction should be driven by your storage needs, your design priorities and your budget. Be sure to talk about this with your kitchen designer. Your designer can offer expertise to help you choose the right cabinetry construction style to enhance the efficiency and beauty of your new kitchen.